Monday, June 7, 2010

WMFATA: Frances Reid...

Yesterday was harder than I thought. Attending the fan memorial brunch for Frances Reid re-introduced me to many that I recognized and remembered from when my mother and I used to attend these Days of our Lives fan weekend events in the late nineties. And as much as my mother was very much just there to be my official photographer (she never wanted to "impose" to ask for an autograph for or photo for herself), attending these events was still "our thing." Looking around the tent in the garden of the Sportsmen's Lodge, there were a couple of mother/daughter duos, including Suzanne Rogers and her mom, who she used to bring to all the events back then, too. And wouldn't you know it? She doesn't look a day older than when I last saw her ten, twelve years ago! And add in the fact that we were all back here in the same place to say goodbye to someone else we collectively loved...well, it was quite the emotional morning!

April Rocha, Reid's niece, read the memorial she wrote for NBC's memorial, held a few months ago. Between that and the few photo and video montages of Reid when she was younger, with her real life family and her "reel life" one, and I was tearing up from more than just the dry heat of the San Fernando Valley!

Reid's last appearance on Days of our Lives was in 2007, and in these last three years she took a worse turn than most probably knew. Though her family kept her Brentwood home-- the one in which she would host so many Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easters and summer pool parties with "her girls" from the show-- she wasn't living in it. She had been relegated to an assisted living home that Rocha said she called "the death bin." When she would put on make-up to see her friends, she would say "I'm putting some color on the corpse." Reid, a woman sassy and spunky in life never lost her spark, even when she knew she was coming to the end.

The event was very much a throwback to all of those I remember from years ago: there was a raffle for autographed memorabilia, a live auction (hosted by Patrika Darbo), a buffet of assorted breakfast treats and tables of donuts to represent Mrs. H in all her glory! Instead of the usual Q&A, though, all of the actors who attended took the mic to pay their respects and tell a story about Reid. And in keeping with Reid's gracious sense of humor, their stories were light-hearted and upbeat, tales of a woman who was so much more than just a co-worker. Reid was their friend, their ally, and their inspiration.

"She was a remarkable woman, and she made people laugh," Arianne Zucker shared. "That's something that I always thought was very important: if you can make one person laugh in the room, then that's a pretty cool thing! I feel very privileged to have met her."

When it was Bill Hayes' turn to talk about Reid, he began by mentioning how she loved to smoke her Cigarillos. But before he could get too deep into the embarrassing anecdote that he said "Frances probably wouldn't want me to share anyway," the microphone experienced a deep feedback that boomed over the loud speakers and rang in the ears of everyone in the tent and probably outside by the pool. Hayes pontificated that perhaps it was Reid herself, making her presence known and thanking everyone for coming. Or maybe she just really didn't want him to talk about her smoking habit!

Jacee Jule, who was hired in part to help Reid around set in her later years, truly broke the bar, though, when she told a tale about Reid walking into the make-up room one day, to find Deidre Hall back on set after a short break. "She went around the room saying hello and good morning to everyone," Jule smiled, reminiscing, "and when she got to Deidre, she said 'Oh! You got another facelift!'" Reid told it like it is, and everyone just listened to her.

"Frances kept you on your toes!" Jason Cook told My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture. "She would catch you off-guard because of her age and because she wasn't as spry as [when she was younger], but let me tell you, she was as sharp as a tack! I always looked forward to acting with her; she was one of the best."

Cook also told the crowd a story about his first day on the job in 1999, in a scene with Reid in which she told a producer to his face that Cook's lines were "crap" and he couldn't say them that way. Scared of losing his job, Cook just went along with it and improvised-- something which he said he continued during the rest of his seven-year duration on the show "all because of Frances."

"Well, it was wonderful working with her because she always kept me on my toes. I had to always know my lines and know what I was doing, and if she didn't like my hair, she would tell me! If she didn't like a couple of the lines they would write for me, she'd say I should change them," Suzanne Rogers seconded.

Reid sounds a bit like Betty White, no?? She was one of the reasons I so truly believed the family that Days of our Lives created. She was one of the reasons I so wanted to be a part of the family that Days of our Lives created, too. It is quite fitting, then, that her on-screen memorial on the show will begin airing on my birthday of this year (June 23). There is nothing like eating ice cream cake in front of the television with tears running down your face to commemorate another year older, stronger, and hopefully wiser-- but also to honor a woman that I would be lucky to exemplify!